Calgary’s Pride festival returns with murals, virtual parade, food trucks and more

The Calgary Pride festival kicks off Friday, and some new art installations by LGBTQ artists as well as special events are helping shine a light on the community.

Calgary Pride has partnered with the city, Calgary Arts Development and Shaw Communications to create four temporary art murals at the four corner entrances to Central Memorial Park.

The park is also the site of the city’s first Pride rally in 1990. Elliot Rae Cormier with Calgary Pride says it’s an important indicator to show how far they’ve come.

“The historic significance of these murals and the sidewalks being painted in this area is a nod to those who have come before us, what we’re doing now and how we’re moving forward as a community,” they said.

Cormier adds that having an art installation in the heart of Calgary’s Beltline shows visibility, inclusion and diversity.

Artwork along the sidewalks and four entrances in Central Memorial Park will be up until early October. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

“I hope that it brings opportunities for conversation and dialogue with folks who might not understand the meaning of the Pride movement or why it’s so important.”

On Friday, the festival starts off with food trucks in East Village and then moves to a collection of in-person and virtual events to follow.

Sumit Munjal, the manager of programming and production at Calgary Pride, says the festival has adapted the format to accommodate the new reality of living with COVID-19.

For example, the famous Pride parade will be virtual this year.

“We understand that this year we cannot march through the streets with thousands of people,” said Munjal.

“We have our community partners and our sponsors do virtual messages … [so a] mix of digital and live performances [accommodates] the people who still don’t feel comfortable being there in person but they still want to celebrate Pride.”

‘Still a lot to do’

Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters Thursday that while the Pride festival can be about celebration, rainbows and outlandish outfits, it’s also a political movement.

“A lot of folks think that the difficult human rights battles already have been won, particularly when it comes to our LGBTQ rights, or as I prefer to say, gender and sexually-diverse peoples’ rights. But that said, there’s still a lot to do. Trans people still face discrimination almost everywhere they go.”

One of the artists who contributed a mural to Central Memorial Park, Mackenzie Bedford, says its important to keep the conversation around Pride still going.

“I think, to really quickly sum it up, I was painting on the corner last week and somebody on a bike biked by and shouted at me that it was a lifestyle of sin,” said Bedford.

“We still need to be loud. We still need to protest and rally every now and then because people sometimes still don’t get on board.”

The Pride festival runs from Friday until Sept. 6.

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